‘Learning’: a different perspective

More than once I’ve been told that the name of our team ‘Cumbria Christian Learning’ is an unfortunate choice. The word ‘Learning’ is the problem. It brings images of sitting listening, being told ‘stuff’, perhaps writing essays about what we’ve been told and read. I think the people I was talking with had images of school, perhaps as it was, and university as it often is now.

This perspective on learning is very common. It’s learning as ‘know what’. It’s knowing facts and information, being able to use that information (primarily in the classroom) to succeed in assessments set by a teacher or lecturer. It’s about individuals, perhaps a lot of them, but each one learning on their own.

Our purpose is ‘growing disciples for mission’. Our focus is on discipleship and leadership. Our perspective on learning is very different – our focus is on ‘know how’: putting knowledge into action – how to make things happen. ‘Know how’ doesn’t come from sitting in a classroom listening to a teacher. To enable learning, we need to create the opportunities for transformation to happen. This might take the form of creative, highly interactive workshops, which are also a model of the way leaders will work with others as they enable learning and growth. We also emphasise ‘know why’, understanding at a deeper level which is a foundation for adaptability and innovation as we respond to complex and changing situations.

Learning isn’t the accumulation of new knowledge. Learning is individual and organizational transformation and growth – becoming a new creation and gaining new perspectives on the world. We emphasise learning together – because that is the context for life and work – getting things done with other people, drawing on a variety of gifts and perspectives.

We judge learning by what you’ve been able to achieve, including how you can work with others to help them discover and develop their gifts. Learning is also about transformation – more ‘who are you becoming?’ than ‘what do you know?’

We think of discipleship and leadership as craft skills, which implies an emphasis on learning by doing, usually in ‘real world’ situations. Some learning is best experienced in small, bite-sized chunks drawing on simple tools and frameworks. As a novice, we can have a go with one of the tools very early in our learning journey. As we revisit them their use becomes habitual, and they help us develop deep expertise.

A key goal for disciples and leaders – and also a critical way to learn – is to help others grow. This includes mentoring and learning by teaching. ‘TGROW’ is an example of a simple and very powerful tool used in 1:1 for coaching and mentoring. It’s a simple framework for a coaching conversation with a colleague:

Author: Colin Ashurst

Acting Director, CCL

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